European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 130, Issue 1, pp 77–89 | Cite as

Light-mediated influence of three understorey species (Calluna vulgaris, Pteridium aquilinum, Molinia caerulea) on the growth of Pinus sylvestris seedlings

  • Noémie GaudioEmail author
  • Philippe Balandier
  • Gwenaël Philippe
  • Yann Dumas
  • Frédéric Jean
  • Christian Ginisty
Original Paper


Depending on its developmental and morphological characteristics, shrubby or herbaceous understorey vegetation interacts differently with tree seedlings during the regeneration process. In acidic temperate forests, three common understorey plant species—Calluna vulgaris (L.) Hull, Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn in Kersten, Molinia caerulea (L.) Moench—are known to rapidly colonize forest gaps. Therefore, they often develop at the expense of light-demanding Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) seedlings. An experiment was set up in a nursery in central France to mimic early competition occurring in a newly created gap between Scots pine seedlings and these three common understorey species (young forest-harvested individuals planted at 5 densities from 0 to 57 plants m−2). Pine seedling survival and growth (height, diameter, shoot and root biomass) and a functional trait (leaf mass on an area basis, LMA) were measured for 2 years, and cross-analysed against plant density, plant cover and available light. When understorey plant density increased, pine seedling diameter growth and biomass were negatively affected by all three plant species; height growth only slowed beneath Pteridium. These negative effects were closely linked to competition for light beneath Pteridium and Molinia. The application of the Beer–Lambert law gave an extinction coefficient k that was high for Pteridium, intermediate for Molinia and much lower for Calluna. LMA was confirmed as an effective foliar trait to reflect the degree of stress undergone by pine seedlings.


Regeneration Competition Light Scots pine Understorey vegetation 



The authors thank André Marquier, Michel Bonin and Catherine Menuet for field assistance. This study was partly supported by a grant from the “Office National des Forêts”, France.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Noémie Gaudio
    • 1
    Email author
  • Philippe Balandier
    • 1
  • Gwenaël Philippe
    • 1
  • Yann Dumas
    • 1
  • Frédéric Jean
    • 1
  • Christian Ginisty
    • 1
  1. 1.CemagrefNogent-sur-VernissonFrance

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